Always surprised

I am always surprised by this journey. Both good and bad surprises.

Our bad surprises, children coming for respite (meaning they are in a ‘loving foster family’) with little or no personal hygiene skills.
Teeth that don’t get cleaned.
Body’s that don’t get washed.
Children who at age 10 can’t wash their own hair.

“Blake” is the poster child for this.
I know he has come from an horrific background. Quite possibly the worst start to life a little person can have, but, he has been in care for 6 years. I know some of that was in residential care (group home for you US readers) and I don’t know how long he has been with his family, but at his age, I would have thought that he should have been taught along the way how to clean his teeth, that his teeth need to be cleaned more than once a day, that he would know how to wash his body, how to wipe his bottom. The basics really.

I would have thought that if these were issues for him that needed work, it would be in his notes for us so that we could help him with at respite.
Is it that we’re just respite carers so what do we need to know for?
Or is it that he’s just trying to get out of doing it when he’s at respite?
Shouldn’t it be a thing he just does?

Questions for me to get answers to, as it appears, this isn’t the end of our time with “Blake”.

Our good surprise for the weekend.
“Blake” announces on Friday night while I’m preparing dinner “I’m not going to cry at respite anymore”.

Well, after the 2.5 hour screaming saga a month ago, you could have knocked me over with a feather! This was the perfect opportunity to have a little chat with him.
Why is he not going to cry? because Mum didn’t go away this weekend. It seems Mum and Dad go away when he’s at respite and he thinks they aren’t coming back (nice he can articulate that now, would have been nicer months ago, but at least we know what was going on for him).
What about a bath at bedtime? No, but can I have a shower in the morning. Yes, we can live with that.
What about cleaning teeth at bedtime? I clean them at bedtime now as well.

So our weekend?
AWESOME!!!
He didn’t cry Friday night at all, and only a little quiet sob for about 10 minutes Saturday night and was quickly settled again.
When we went to the farm, we told him all about what things we were going to do when we went home from the farm, and agreed to a 30 minute warning when it was time to go, and again, he was awesome, even gave Nana and Papa a hug when he left, a first, which left them with beaming smiles (they don’t ask for hugs from the kids, but when they get them, you can see how much it means).

I have no idea what’s happened for “Blake” in the last month.
I don’t know if the feedback we sent through to the department has been forwarded on so that his carers know what’s going on for him at respite and if they’ve talked to him.
We wont know what has made the changes, but, it’s been so much less stressful for all of us.

The main thing I hope that comes from this awesome weekend is that “Blake” realises that respite can be lots of fun and he has the power to make his own happiness.

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Breathe, just breathe

We try to be fairly patient with the department peoples.
MM is on a committee with them to help improve things, but today…oh lordy! Thank goodness there was no computer around, or this post would have been a WHOLE lot different. I’m sure you could have seen the steam from me ears on your screen as you read.

Well, what happened? Angel (I’m giving our lovely PSW a code name, and it has to be Angel as she is like our guardian Angel, always watching over us) was asking for some confirmation that this weekend is our last weekend with “Blake” so that we could do something special for him and explain to him about what was going on and why he wouldn’t be seeing us anymore. I had also emailed Angel some notes we had written up about “Blake”, behaviours, issues we’d had, how we’d dealt with them, what worked, what didn’t and our thoughts on future respite placements for “Blake” (see the end is nigh).

Angel got back to me by email and there was information in there from “Blake’s” social worker that just made me grumpy. Angel also called me and it seems somehow the social worker thinks WE’RE the ones pulling the plug on “Blake” coming here for respite, and that she was under the impression that we think he’s too hard, too many issues, too difficult. Yes, “Blake” can be hard work, with lots of issues, but, we got into foster care with our eyes wide open, we know that children who’s carers need respite, are not generally sweet little angels, they’re kids with needs, and we’re prepared to step in, even if it means going grey faster!

As the day progressed, Angel also heard from “Blake’s” carers support worker who was also under the assumption we didn’t ‘want’ him anymore. Grrrrrr.
I think people’s ears are painted on!
We never said that. We said that he should have less carers not more and as he already has longer relationships with his current respite carers, that should continue..

Well, wouldn’t you know it. As soon as Angel said, it wasn’t we didn’t want him, they asked what we’re doing in 2 weeks time!?! What the…???

All afternoon, I’ve been telling myself I’m reading too much into the email, but, I can tell you, I was none too pleased that someone is judging me without taking the time to talk with me on the phone, and the way I read the email was that people thought we’re only here to babysit the good kids.

Hell no! We love the challenge.
Do I vent here in blog land? Yep.
Sometimes do the kiddies do our heads in? Yep
Would we change what we do? Not for quids.

All I can say is, thank goodness MM is on that committee. This is a perfect example of poor communications between all the adults providing care for “Blake” and at the end of the day, the only one who really suffers is “Blake”.

Hopefully, now we can move forward and get some better communication happening to help the little man.

It looks like it may not be the end of his time with us after all
So now we have to work out what to say to him seeing as we don’t know what’s going on either.

To party or not to party, that is the question

We have been invited to a party.
A children free party.
It’s never been an issue for me before, I don’t have kids, so when my friends with kids have parties that say on the invitation “book a babysitter” I’ve never had to worry.
But…this time we will have “Kelly” for the weekend.

So what to do.
Options I see for us are….
a) Don’t go
b) Have respite only for Sunday night not Saturday night
c) Have no respite for the weekend at all
d) Approach the department and see if “Kelly” can spend the night at my parents house. They have been police checked so it should be ok, but I must say, it feels weird looking for respite for our respite kiddo.

We talked to “Kelly” about the dilemma. She really wants to stay at the farm (How cool is that!?!)
But, sadly it’s going to come down to one persons choice at the department.

Are there other options that we haven’t thought of?

What do you think we should do?

The end is nigh

Our last weekend with “Blake” is coming up.

For a one off weekend of respite, we will have had “Blake” for 6 weekends in the last 5 months, and that’s with our lovely PSW saying no to the weekend just passed (it was a “Kelly” weekend and as he has sexualised behaviours he can’t be placed with other children, so we couldn’t help out).

For the most part of our time with “Blake” has been lovely. There have been some hiccups, also known as learning experiences for us, there have been the going to bed sagas, but other than that, he has mostly been a happy little man to have around.

At the end of the month the regular respite carer that we have been filling in for will be back from holidays and he will resume one weekend with her, and next fortnight with other respite carer. We have been asked to consider having him one weekend every other month, to which we have said no.
We had “Blake” for several respites quite close together and we found we were able to get routine happening with him and our weekends were much less stressful, particularly at bedtime, for all involved. It wasn’t until we had an 8 week gap that the original issues popped back and it was like starting over.

We’ve discussed our thoughts with our PSW and we think that he would be better with less respite carers not more. We think he needs to have consistency, routine and predictability. It must be really hard for him, 3 respite carers, plus his home. That’s 4 lots of routines, house rules, expectations. How confusing it must be for him.

So, with the end in sight I will make him a DVD of all of the photos we have taken of him while he has been here, and do a little party at the farm.

Any other suggestions??

“Dude”

“Kelly” is getting really comfortable with us, and with that comfort we see her sense of humour coming out more and more, and the funniest little things she says.

Dad and MM were messing around at the table over afternoon tea, and “Kelly” leans over to me and says in a whisper “We love these guys don’t we?” My reply, “Yeah mate, we do.”

Later on, Dad keeps being silly and “Kelly” pops out a “Dude, (pause) no….just…no”

She called Papa Dude.

Hilarious.

Love it.

What a day

What started as a regular Friday leading up to a “Kelly” weekend took a turn when the amazing PSW rang and left a cryptic…”Can you call me as soon as you can” message. Ok, so 2 options, no “Kelly” for the weekend or there’s an emergency, which would be strange for her to call us about with “Kelly” due.

As soon as I rang, I could tell from her voice it was an emergency.

A little brother and sister were in need of respite for the following week, but needed to start from Sunday, and it’s now Friday so it’s quite important for us to make a quick decision. Could we do this? It meant having 3 kiddies Sunday afternoon/evening, and 2 separate school runs on Monday morning, in opposite directions to where we live, of course, one school wouldn’t be on the way to the other.

Of course we could.
So the afternoon was busy for all involved.
PSW busy organising the hand over notes for us (one little munchkin had quite severe medical issues we would have to deal with), getting permission from “Kelly’s” social worker for us to have the other kiddies here while she was here, and getting approval for us to exceed our registration of having two children, to have three instead.
Us, organising an extra child car seat, preparing the room for them (presently it’s set for 2 boys, so it was just a matter of changing sheets and quilt cover to butterflies) and working out the logistics of school drop offs and pick ups.

And then, at the last minute, that call that undoes everything. For whatever reason, the children’s carer no longer needed respite.

I’m getting better at dealing with these last minutes cancellations. It’s not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but I do get all excited at new babies coming to us, so it’s always a bit of a let down when the plans get cancelled. But, it is nice that the kiddies don’t need respite though.

How do you deal with the last minute decisions that are thrown your way as a foster carer?

P.S. PSW….you have a tell. You sound really cheeky when you’re sizing me up for an emergency placement, just so you know.

Planning for Christmas

I suppose you think I’m a bit batty preparing from Christmas in June.
I suppose in a way I am.

But, as we only have a certain number of respite weekends with “Kelly” before Christmas we need to get started.

Last year we managed for her to knit her ‘sister’ a scarf for Christmas. “Kelly” helped out with some chores and earned the money to buy the yarn, and then made the scarf with some help from me. She was quiet proud of her achievements, and I’m proud of what she did as well. We’re trying to teach her that it’s not about how much money you spend on someone, but the thought you put into the gift and the effort.

So now we’re working on a scarf for “Kelly’s” nana, which again, “Kelly” earned the money to buy the yarn.

Next, something for ‘Dad’.

I’m thinking we could make some rag placemats, great for hand dexterity with all the plaiting involved.

eg rag rug

Any other suggestions???

Ah….Weekend ‘off’

We just had a weekend kidlet free. Mmmmm. So nice to have time to ourselves.

During the week we let our lovely PSW know that we were going to visit a friend who’s husband recently passed away over the weekend, so, we didn’t think we should take a respite or emergency placement as we didn’t think it would be nice to take children there. We had a lovely visit, coffee, cake, chat, playing ‘bunny’ with little 5 year old daughter and thanks to Ma and Pa, we delivered an esky full of beef, lamb and chicken from the from the farm to help them out at this time.

What else did we do that amazed me….the grocery shopping. Well, that’s not amazing, but getting it done in 30 minutes was! No little “Blake” and the “I want…” game. No “Kelly” walking a snail speed, and while yes she has mobility issues, when it’s going somewhere she wants, she has the ability to walk at a really brisk pace, around the supermarket, not so fast.

We slept in. Both days. Until 9 am. Unheard of!!

We started a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and should have it finished before our next kidlet arrives.

We visited my parents with no little people so we got to have ‘adult’ conversation.

So nice to have that time to us.

Funny how the little things, like grocery shopping, are so different without kidlets.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you have kid free time?

Thank you MM for making it a lovely weekend.

Thank you PSW for encouraging us to make time for ourselves to rest and recharge our batteries.

Kelly’s new word

Like a little kid when they learn a new word, all they want to do is try it out.
“Kelly” may have picked up a new word from me….ooops.
Isn’t it funny….you don’t even know you say something a lot until a little person picks it up and runs with it.
So what is it that “Kelly” has picked up from me you ask.

Well, when MM is being silly or pulling faces at me, or just making me laugh with his shenanigans I often shake my head and say “I love you”. It’s often accompanied by a comment like “you’re funny” or “you idiot” and a hug.

So, this weekend “Kelly” has been trying that out. When MM or I have been silly she laughs and says “I love you”.
On the way home from our alternative excursion Sunday (we didn’t go to the farm, see Am I a Chicken) we were talking about a funeral we had attended during the week, and how it was a real celebration of this persons life with people sharing stories.

So, I asked if they had any funny stories they would share about me.
MM just said, “yep…mashed potato” at which point I cracked up laughing, and I was laughing so much while MM explained why that we got a “I love you guys” from “Kelly”.

We never made any comments, we just let her try out her new phrase, she’s just trying it out, seeing how it fits, and I must say, after 18 months of providing resite for her, it was such a delight to hear and to feel that she really is comfortable with us.

Now, to get her to love maths!!

Am I a chicken?

Ahhh…a “Kelly” weekend.
Normally a fairly quiet weekend, minimal problems, just the odd trippy conversation when she flicks from her 12 year-old self to her younger 7 year old self. No, it’s not Dissociate Identity Disorder, she just has some learning and emotional delays and you never quite know when the 7 year old is going to pop up.

“Kelly” now gets dropped off for respite on Saturday morning and I take her to school Monday morning with Sunday being go to the farm day.

This weekend however, Ma and Pa are getting visitors on Sunday that I’m reluctant to introduce “Kelly” to. One can be racist (I’d hate for him to make rude remarks, even in jest to or about “Kelly”) and the other can be, well, a sticky beak. While “Kelly” tells me she is used to kids at school asking why she’s in foster care and she just tells them it’s none of their business, I really don’t want to put her in a situation where an elderly person is asking those nosey rosey questions.

Am I being too protective?
Am I being a chicken?